Welcome to Jester's Trek.
I'm your host, Jester. I've been an EVE Online player for about six years. One of my four mains is Ripard Teg, pictured at left. Sadly, I've succumbed to "bittervet" disease, but I'm wandering the New Eden landscape (and from time to time, the MMO landscape) in search of a cure.
You can follow along, if you want...

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Target audience

It's time to take a walk on the road of microtransactions. The road is going to be long and a bit winding, so you might want to hold my hand. Ready?  Let's go.

EVE Online and Global Agenda now something major in common: both have three units of currency, which can be used to purchase two types of products. In both EVE and GA, the two types of products are useful products and vanity products. In GA, the useful products are armor, weapons, and pets; the vanity products are suits, helmets, and dyes. In EVE, the useful products are spaceships and everything associated with them; the vanity products are the (so far) limited selection of items in the Noble Exchange. In GA, the three types of currency are credits, tokens, and agency points. In EVE, the three types of currency are ISK, PLEX, and AUR.

There, though, the similarity between GA and EVE ends, for two reasons. But I'll get to those reasons in a second. First, we need to look at this chart:

The ubiquitous EVE circle-of-life chart.

A lot of EVE blogs have been posting this chart in the last few weeks, but unfortunately, none of the EVE blogs really get what is critical about this chart. What's critical about this chart is that any of the three EVE currencies can be easily and quickly traded for an equal measure of any of the other EVE currencies. This is huge. Bought in numbers of two or more, a PLEX is $17.50 U.S. As I type this, a PLEX is worth both 3500 AUR and 400 million ISK. As a result, we have the current conversion for EVE currencies:
$1 => 0.06 PLEX <=> 200 AUR <=> 22.85 million ISK.
So, a 12000 AUR monocle is also worth either $60 or 1.37 billion ISK, about the same amount of RL dollars or ISK as a fully fit carrier or Machariel in-game. And only one of those transactions is one-way: the transition from RL dollars to PLEX. Once I hold that PLEX, I can (per the chart above) convert it into either of the other two in-game currencies, or into one of those in-game currencies and then back into a PLEX. Only the transition from dollars to PLEX is a one-way gate (legally, anyway).

GA does things quite differently. In GA, you purchase agency points for a flat fee of $5 for 400 agency points. I won't bore you with the math, but the equivalent conversion for Global Agenda currencies looks like this:
$1 => 100 AP => 45800 credits <= 2000 tokens.
Check out all the one-way gates. In GA, everything flows downhill to credits. You cannot purchase tokens with credits. You cannot purchase AP with anything other than RL money. It's a huge difference between the two games. And it's for this reason that I'm going to make a controversial prediction:

Items in the EVE Noble Exchange won't be getting any cheaper than they are right now. In fact, they're going to become more expensive.

Let's get to the two major reasons that GA and EVE are different before I explain why I make that prediction:
  1. In GA, vanity products are very cheap. A tier 5 dye (the highest level) costs between $3.50 and $5.00 U.S. The suits and helmets are even cheaper. The best suits in the game cost about 125,000 credits, or about $3. Changing your hairstyle or face costs less than a dollar U.S., and some of the specialty vanity items cost 2000 tokens, or about $0.80 U.S. By contrast, vanity items in EVE are hugely expensive. The cheapest item available on the NeX right now costs $5, and is a basic black pair of boots with no discernible difference from the free boots available in-game. The average item costs $15. The most expensive item available right now, as noted above, costs $60.
  2. In GA, both useful and vanity products can be purchased for two different types of currency, one of which is always agency points (RL money). Most useful items in GA can be purchased with either tokens or agency points. For instance, high end weapons cost 30,000 tokens, or 1195 agency points, about $15 either way. In EVE, as of right now, useful items cannot be purchased with real money at all. In EVE, useful products can only be purchased with ISK, and vanity products can only be purchased with AUR.
This makes vanity items entirely, 100% optional in EVE. Given the hugely greater flexibility that EVE capsuleers have not to purchase these products and the flexibility they have in terms of how to pay for them if they do, I doubt very much that CCP is going to fold on the prices of these items. As a matter of fact, I'd get used to that 12000 AUR price tag for desirable items. They don't see that as $60. They see it as 1.37 billion ISK, a high... but quite attainable amount of ISK in the game. Even with my greatly reduced EVE play time and my hugely reduced in-game income, I'm still bringing in about 50 million ISK per day. Which means that if I wanted one, I could have a monocle in under a month.

In EVE game time, this isn't a significant amount of time. I saved for about the same amount of time for my first carrier, or my first Machariel.

And remember: Noble Exchange items are not particularly intended for spaceship-flying EVE players. They're intended for the forthcoming predicted wave of walking-in-station EVE players! To these players, a carrier will be irrelevant.  They're never going to see or care about your carrier because they'll rarely be undocking.  But a monocle will be a cool status symbol that you save up for, every bit as desirable to them as your Machariel is to you.

So no, those Noble Exchange prices aren't coming down. On the contrary, given that the current items are very bland and grey, I think I can predict with a great deal of certainty that when more colorful, interesting items of clothing begin appearing in NeX, they're going to be every bit as expensive as that monocle.  Maybe more, since unlike your Machariel, they'll be difficult or impossible to destroy.

And they'll be every bit as desirable to their forthcoming target audience.

You heard it here first.


  1. Setting the price that high also limits the impact of vanity items on the PLEX market and, unlike setting them at very low prices to achieve the same effect, will not saturate the market for vanity items (since they're mostly indestructible).

  2. The Nobel Exchange is supposed to be filled with "upper-class" status items. That is the intention. It's not supposed to be Value Village. The only time the Exchange could bother me is if they started slanging "pay to win" items that change the game play. Otherwise, the fact that it's completely optional makes it harmless to a space faring player like myself.

    I rather like this assessment of the system :)

  3. i don't agree that plex is a 3rd currency, no more than say any other item could be considered a currency

    I consider PLEX to be the gold and isk to be the dollar :)

    and now Aur....,.

  4. As long as you can buy game time with PLEXes but not with ISK or AUR, PLEX is a unit of currency.


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